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on 14 October 2002
October 1973. The Yom Kippur War.
Few people will be ignorant of this conflict when Egypt and Syria carried out their surprise attack upon the Israelis at the most Holy time in the Jewish calendar, when the Israeli forces were at their most vulnerable due to religious observance.

As I had just begun my own military training in my own country, I remember wondering if the conflict would expand and include our own military due to the sabre-rattling of the super-powers as the Israelis turned initial defeat into eventual victory.
I have read a number of accounts of that historic conflict since then, but few come close to this account by Major General Chaim Herzog.
It's recent re-release is most welcome. The author's articulate and extremely well written record and analysis is a worthy addition to anyone's library. Some might find it controversial and expect it to be biased due to the author's own nationality. I did not find this.
Instead I found this to be a brilliant account of unbelievable bravery in the face of heavily outnumbered forces, self-sacrifice and incredible counter-attacks. The author describes how early Egyptian and Syrian advances which threatened the very existence of the Jewish state, were thwarted and repulsed. Advances that subsequently turned into a retreat which saw Israeli forces within artillery range of the Syrian capital Damascus and well on the road to the Egyptian capital Cairo.
This is not all about the 'glamour and glory' of an Israeli victory. Far from it. It endeavours to tell the real story, as much as possible the full story of the war with all it's successes, omissions and failures. It is also the story of a people in possibly their greatest hour of challenge in present day history.
The Arab media had promised it's masses that the entire Israeli population, men, women and children, would be subject to destruction and annihilation in the most brutal manner. With the horrors of the holocaust being only recent memories, those Israelis who took these threats seriously must have been horrified.
The outset of the war and initial Israeli losses have been subject to a variety of claims surrounding poor intelligence etc.. The impotence of the UN and the super-powers in preventing this conflict is there for all to see, as is the shadow of a potential nuclear catastrophe resulting from the super-powers' involvement towards the end. Notable is the fact that whilst the Egyptian and Syrian attacks were in full swing, there was little movement towards enforcing any ceasefire. Yet when the roles were reversed, the world bent over backwards to ensure a ceasefire was adhered to.
It is also notable that Chaim Herzog, even a quarter of a century ago, makes reference in this book to the phased plan of the Arab nations towards destroying Israel involving an initial withdrawal by the Jewish state to the 1967 borders.
(Ring any bells pertaining to present day politics ?)
Notably also is the authors remarks of that time to the effect that the civilian populations in the region will become exposed to no less a degree than the military forces in any future war. We need only look around us now to see the veracity in his remarks.
Read this book to see what, if any lessons have been learnt by either side, and how the world reacted at different stages of the conflict. It is a sobering read and will open your eyes, not only to the military situation in the Middle East in 1973, but to the attitude of the nations and a present day scenario which threatens similar conflicts in the future.
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on 5 June 2008
The 1973 Yom Kippur War left in it's wake shattered illusions , an escalation in the energy crisis and a reshaped poltiical situation in the Middle East.

This work , originally written two years after the Yom Kippur War , by one of Israel's foremost millitary analysts and later President of Israel, traces the roots of the war to the Six Day War , and gives a detailed analysis of the war on two fronts , the Northern Front , in the Golan against the Syrian attackers (aided by auxiliaries from Iraq, Jordan , Morocco , Saudi Arabia . Kuwait and Cuba among others) and the Southern Front , in the Sinai , against the Egyptian invaders.

The author , in tracing the conflict from the 1967 Six Day War , illustrates how the Soviet Union instigated the war , arming the Arabs , falsely advising the Syrians about the concentrations of Israeli troops on their borders , playing down the escalation in the United Nations and heavily arming Syria , Egypt and Iraq , egging them on to a war of anihilation against Israel.

Herzog details the backdrop to the war with the reality that Israel was faced with:
"As Arab hysteria rose and the Arab media promised the Israeli population - men , women and children - destruction and anihilation in the most brutal manner , the horrors of the Nazi holocaust rose to the fore in Jewish consciousness. The Jewish people knew that these where not mere words , recalling how many nations nurtured on the tenets of Christianity had either participated in the previous bloody massacres or had looked on. And indeed the world looked on , petrified , incapable of taking action".

Herzog details how Israel's extraordinary victory in the Six Day War lulled that nation into a false sense of security. The War of Attrition (1969-1970) by Egypt against Israel. The very magnitude of the Arab defeat in the Six Day War , with it's damaging implications for Arab pride , self-respect and honour set the stage for the next war , points out the author , detaling Nasser's resolve that "what was taken by force must be returned by force". The Soviet Union rebuilt the armed might of Egypt , Syria and Iraq , with the latest weapons and equipment , continually urging the Arabs into another war with Israel.
The author details the political machinations of the Soviet Union and Arab powers leading to the war , and reveals the shocking fact that Israel knew several days before the war that a massive Arab attack was imminent on Yom Kippur but miscalculated the hour , believing it would be four hours later then when it actually took place.

The author details how "the inherent strength and resilience of the people of Israel was revealed in the stark , grim and tragic days at the outset of the war , when fighting back against overwhelming odds , they overcame the initial setbacks and achieved millitary success."
He sizes up in his opinion the strengths and weaknesses of Israel's foremost Generals in the conflict such as Moshe Dayan , David Elazar , Shmuel Gonen , Ariel Sharon , Chaim Bar Lev and Raful Eitan. Finally he detailed the political implications of the war.
Looking at his comments today about perfidious role of the Soviet Union in encouraging the Arabs not to compromise with Israel , and egging them on to belligerance , one realizes that although the Soviet Union is no more , Communist rule having collapsed in that part of the world , it's role has been overtaken by others with an implacable hostility to Israel, including Red China ,and the South African led Non Aligned Movement , which continue the Marxist inspired hatred of Israel , originally created by the Soviets.
Finally Herzog reminds us how Israel has never been the elment to block peace moves and that the basic problem continues to be Arab insistence that Israel has no right to exist (today backed up by the international hard left).
"Only when Arab actions indicate a willingness to modify their atttitude to the basic issue of the existance of the State of Israel will it be possible for Israel make concessions."
Unfortunately the failed Oslo process proved that the Arabs only saw the agreement of Arab rule of the disputed territories as an intitial stage in the road to Israel's destruction.
Those on the international Left who encourage the Arab dream of Israel's destruction , only make genuine peace more unrealizable.
The Israeli people desperately want peace and always have wanted peace , but must fight to
survive and avoid a second holocaust.
If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence.

If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel.
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on 25 August 2010
Chaim Herzog was a British born Israeli president who took centre stage in the 1960 and 1970 and was a direct witness of the Yom Kippur war.

He has written several volumes about the Arab Israeli wars but this one dealt only with Yom Kippur and its aftermath.

The Arab offensive plan is well explained, however later authors have reinforced that the date was chosen primarily on clamatorial grounds and it was an added bonus that the Israeli army will be on leave on the holiest day for the Jewish calendar.

The narrative does not differ from his previous works and rather descriptive than reflective. One can get a good idea of the frantic fight on the isolated bunkers by the canal, surrounded and facing impossible odds small groups of soldiers kept entire brigades busy for precious hours until reinforcements could arrive.

Sharon's crossing is dealt with particularly well and the author explains why it meant the death of the Egyptian third army and the end of the war.

The war in the North is also well described and although it posed a greater threat to Israel, the author feels the Syrian army did not conduct itself as well as the more professional neighbours.

The problem with the book is the format(I could only get a paperback copy), the maps are not particularly interesting and recent work by other authors make it look a bit aged.
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on 27 July 1999
The Yom Kippur War is the greatest war fought by the Israeli Army. The same brigade that was badly mauled in the initial onslaught, was also the brigade that cleared the Chinese Farm, in preparation for Arik Sharon's counterattack. However, up to this day, Herzog is still hiding the mistakes made by his fellow generals, i.e. Bar-Lev, Gonen, Hofi. Herzog, claimed that Gonen, was just unlucky in being GOC Southern Command, when war broke out. If he had been a division commander, he would hv emerged victorious, like Arik Sharon. Question is: isn't that what leadership is all about? Exercising good judgements as a leader in times of disorientation? In this, Bar-lev & Gonen, has failed miserable. The failure to evacuate the Bar-lev strongholds at the onset of the war, has costed hundreds of Israeli lives, trying to rescue the survivors. Instead of consolidating its forces, Gonen sent Ammon, Dan, Natke brigades in piece-meals attacks, even though the size of the Sinai is an excellent buffer, wiping out more than half of Israeli frontline forces before the reserves arrive. The Bar-lev Line has been a disaster and only Arik Sharon, Israel Tal & Avraham Tamir, managed to forsee the damage that it will bring, in the event of a war. Herzog called the failed attack on the 8th Oct, as An Opportunity Lost. I would rather termed it a major disaster. Only Arik understood, that the main objective, has to be to cross the Canal, and undermine the Egytians, without the costly battle of taking on the Egytians on the east bank, head on. On the Northern front, i can't see any reason why Hofi should be given credit for the fine performance. When the whole Golan was swarmed by Syrians, it was only Raful Eitan, who is there on the Golan, calmly controlling the battle, while the rest are in their war-room. The war was won, when the Israelis maanged to hold off the attack, while the reservists were streaming in. IDF can only improve if it learns from its mistakes.
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on 31 May 2007
A very biased account of the 1973 war which was largely a draw/stalemate with both sides suffering heavy losses. This book is biased to the Israeli perspective beyond belief. Every israeli victory is regarded as courageous and smashing whereas every egyptian victory as minor or due to an israeli lost opportunity. The narrative is also boring without any real feel for the war. Dayan and Golda Meir were in dire straits during this war but the writer does'nt convey any of these emotions. Dayan described it as an "earthquake", Golda Meir as "a nightmare". For the author it seems to be just a boring exercise. Israeli General Yavitch stated in January 1974 that against the Egyptians "we scored no meaningful victories", however this book claims (amusingly) that the war was a total victory for Israel. What a joke, about as funny as President Sadat when he claimed it was a total victory for Egypt. When will writers about this war admit that it was a stalemate, a draw, both sides fought equally and nothing more....
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on 29 March 2015
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